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Letter: Math method doesn't add up

Published 11:09 am, Friday, January 11, 2013
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We are deeply concerned that Fairfield will quickly adopt a new math curriculum that we believe is contrary to the best interests of students, not in line with top-performing schools, has no proven track record and is based on suspect research. Mansfield is the only other school system in the state using this curriculum.

This controversial 20-year-old curriculum, called College Preparatory Mathematics or CPM, has been implemented in Fairfield's eighth-grade Algebra I and high school Algebra 12 classes this year without the benefit of a formal presentation to a curriculum committee, input from the community or presentation to the full Board of Education. If adopted, the curriculum will expand into secondary math classes and will be in place for a minimum of five years.

How did this happen?

Under our current BOE practice, curriculum leaders develop curriculum. We believe that Fairfield adopted a de facto curriculum when it entered into a $13,000 contract with CPM that includes purchase of textbooks and four days of teacher training.

"Curriculum" or "piloting a textbook"?

CPM's publisher provides textbooks and teacher guides that include lesson plans currently utilized in our schools. CPM calls its educational offerings "professional development and curriculum materials" (www.cpm.org). Contrary to a June 26, 2012 request by BOE member Sue Brand that the administration inform the board about pilot studies, the administration has chosen to call the new roll out of CPM an "instructional method" or "piloting a textbook," explaining that it did not need to notify the BOE because CPM is not a curriculum.

No evidence to support CPM success

Concerned parents who have looked into CPM have found no evidence to support its success, including SAT results. Instead, parents found school systems that have adopted CPM have since rejected it. After a decade of using the CPM curriculum, many California schools decided to reject CPM altogether or offer an alternative traditional math track.

If your child had a choice to opt out of CPM, do you know enough about the program to make an educated decision?

Self-discovery

CPM relies heavily on students discovering math concepts while working in groups of four rather than a more traditional teacher-led discovery and instruction with group work as a secondary component.

"Guess and check"

Students "guess and check" their answers until they discover what they believe is the right answer. Teachers cannot provide answers.

Students learn in student-led groups

After a brief teacher-led overview, students break into groups of four: facilitator, team captain, recorder and resource manager. Only the facilitator can ask questions. Only the recorder can take notes, etc.

Students teach other students

Students are expected to teach each other concepts and cannot move on until all students in the group understand. Students receive group grades. Individual grades are often lower, according to parents.

Ask for a choice. Attend the BOE meeting Jan. 15.

Dawn Llewellyn

Fairfield Math Advocates

Fairfield